Have you worn out your remote control yet? Do you hate watching games in Standard Definition now? Have you discovered the joys of listening to all the action on XM or via NHL.com when you are at home? Are you sleep-deprived? That’s all part of keeping up with the Stanley Cup playoffs now!
As of this writing, four series have concluded, three of those in four-game sweeps. Boston has been resting since wrapping it up with the Canadiens last Wednesday in the No. 1 vs No. 8 match-up in the East. That ended a five-series post-season losing streak for the Bruins, who were in the running for the President’s Trophy until the end. They still appear to the best team in the East, and now the Bruins await a match up against the lowest-remaining seed among the Rangers, Hurricanes or the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The two sweeps in the west were Vancouver over St. Louis plus Detroit over Columbus. As late as February 20, the Blues were effectively 15th in the Conference – but finished 17-5-3 to leapfrog into the sixth spot. No question, they were the team of destiny, but they couldn’t score against Roberto Luongo – managing just five goals on 131 shots in the four games and only one power play goal in 24 tries. In a series with three of the games decided by one goal – that just wasn’t enough.
The Detroit sweep of Columbus surprised me. I thought the Blue Jackets could pull the No. 7 seed over No. 2 seed upset there and certainly not get swept. Going in, the Blue Jackets appeared to have the advantage in goal with Steve Mason, but 18 goals against later, it was all over. Chris Osgood looked nothing like he had in the regular season and the only game in which the Blue Jackets managed to score more than once was the finale, when they twice overcame two-goal deficits before falling 6-5.
Back to the Eastern Conference for the other series that’s over, with No. 4 Pittsburgh eliminating No. 5 Philadelphia in six tough ones. Nothing could have been more difficult than overcoming a 3-0 deficit in Philadelphia. So last year’s Stanley Cup finalists move on the second round, and the Penguins have knocked the Flyers out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Now – to the marathons: there are two sixth games on the card tonight: the emerging power in the West, the No. 4 seed Chicago Blackhawks will need to overcome Calgary’s home-ice to knock out the Flames tonight. It’s a series where the home team has won each game. Saturday’s game five turned out to be the first in this series that the team that scored first actually won. Can the Flames hold serve? They’ve already given Chicago more than I had expected.
The other game tonight could end with the upset of the playoffs. The No. 8 seed Anaheim Ducks are hosting the President’s Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks at the Honda Center. The Ducks lead the series, 3-2, and a victory would make the Sharks the third President’s Trophy winning team to fall in the opening round in the last nine seasons, joining the 2006 Detroit Red Wings and the 2000 St. Louis Blues.
The Ducks had finished strong, going 10-2-1. San Jose stumbled a bit at the end, but still had the best record in the NHL, but the Ducks took the first two games at San Jose, setting up the Ducks for the kill. After splitting in Anaheim, the Ducks had the chance to wrap it up in San Jose Saturday night. That night, the Sharks took a 2-nothing lead, but the Ducks came back to tie it, but couldn’t finish the job. In overtime, Joe Thornton went behind the net and slid a pass to Patrick Marleau, who finally got it past Jonas Hiller to make tonight’s game necessary. I would advise taking a nap so that you miss none of this one, starting at 9:30 tonight on Versus.
Tuesday night, we have the best of the best: two Seventh Games! The 7th-seeded Rangers, who once led this series 3-1, hope to get things going again at Washington’s Verizon Center versus the Capitals. Versus will carry this one at 6 o’clock. Suddenly, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has begun to look ordinary in net the last two games. The Rangers are facing their first Game Seven since winning the Cup in 1994 – and have asked the NHL for improved security behind their bench – since head coach John Tortorella was suspended for yesterday’s game, after squirting a fan behind the bench on Friday night in DC.
The other Game 7 on Tuesday is the culmination of the No. 3 vs No. 6 match-up of the New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils will host it at the Prudential Center in Newark. The teams have alternated wins throughout this one, four of the games have been decided by a goal, two of the games have gone to overtime, and the Hurricanes tied the series by getting the winner with two-tenths of a second remaining in Game Four. In the last two games, Martin Brodeur and Cameron Ward have traded shutouts. It’s a shame that this one won’t be available on national TV!
Will we get the best of all possible worlds with two more Game Sevens on Wednesday? Stay tuned!